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Residents observe biannual migration of summer hillterns

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George Washington University

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Residents observe biannual migration of summer hillterns

District watches as last of the migratory Capitol interns return to their breeding grounds for the winter

Audrey Whitehurst

9.22.17

CAPITOL HILL—As the days shorten and the cherry blossoms turn to red foliage, DC residents are gathering at monuments and museums and all the best Washington haunts to eagerly observe the migratory patterns of the Politcus privilegus, or the common summer hilltern. The biannual event takes place during late spring, when the famous Washington humidity coupled with the end of the yearly application process attracts hoards of juvenile young professionals to the DC resume watering holes. It occurs again in the fall, as the thermostat dips to a chilling 76 degrees and the hillterns to forced back to the safe comfort of their respective private institutions.

Locals often describe the event as "beguiling" and "enchanting." Bars, restaurants, and museums, once clamoring with early 20-somethings in ill-fitting blazers, must readjust to catering to mid-to-late 20-somethings in slightly better fitting blazers. The common summer hillterns seem to disappear overnight, abandoning their subletted nests and emptying out of the halls of Congress before the August recess has a chance to expire.

Residents have mixed emotions this time every year. Some DC locals are repeatedly dumbfounded by the awesome power of hilltern resolve. Meredith Peterson, a forty-seven year old research coordinator at Democrats for Love Triumphs Over Evil (DLTOE), finds the natural and instinctive behavior of these creatures to be an inspiration. “It seems to speak to a foundational aspect of life,” she said, “I look at these sweet, benign critters and think, ‘wow, what tenacity! They won’t let anything keep them away’. They don’t even think about it, they just come, stand in line at Starbucks for 3 months, and then go off into the world again. If they can do that, then certainly there is hope for humans.”

Not all residents share Peterson’s inspired view on the hilltern migration. Jerry Harken, twenty-nine year old blogger at Wake Up DC! and aspiring graduate student, sees the migratory pattern of this species as a symptom of an ecological system racked with toxins. Like dangerous blooms of algae in the Chesapeake and Asian carp invasion of the Mississippi, the influx of hillterns and shifts in their behavior reveals a deeper problem. “Think about the big picture--what are these parasites getting out of this? It’s not like they get money or resources, but still, every year there are more of them and they are only getting more aggressive,” Harken said in a blog-post Saturday. “A group of them gathered at my favorite bar—The Eagle’s Talons—every Sunday. I watched them, but they wouldn’t do anything but drink the cheapest IPAs and talk about Pod Save America. Eventually I just went right up to them and asked ‘What are you doing here!’, and you know what they said? Apparently they read on a subreddit that Kamala Harris would being having a fundraiser there at some point during the summer! That doesn’t even make sense! If this isn’t the clearest argument for climate change, I don’t know what is.”